What I Love About the Riviera
By Gabrielle Labourier
This might seem obvious, but one of the best aspects of the Riviera is the weather.
With almost 300 days of sun each year, the Cote d’Azur boasts the best weather in all of France. If you enjoy big blue skies, warm weather, and pleasant sea temperatures then the Riviera was made for you. However long you plan to stay, make it longer. The amazing thing about the Riviera is that you will never run out of things to do or see. After three years here I still feel like I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, there is always more around the corner to explore and surprise me!
Réserve de la Mala
If you’re ever looking for *that* piece of heaven on Earth, look no further than the Réserve de la Mala in Cap d’Ail. With its limpid water, picturesque cliff and secluded setting, the Plage de la Mala is most certainly the Riviera’s best kept secret. I’ll admit that getting there isn’t necessarily easy, you’ll have to venture down 124 steps (going up at the end of the day is the hard part) but I promise you that once you get to the bottom, you won’t regret it. As you walk down, you’ll start to see the magnificent setting through the trees and once arrived the view is breath-taking. You’ll find either the public beach where you can have the most beautifully set picnic you’ll ever have, or you can opt for the private side of the beach where you can dine in one of two restaurants, rent sunbeds and towels while enjoying great service. Your kids might fuss about having to walk down but they’ll be delighted upon arrival once they realise the water is warm, clear, and jellyfish-free! They can play in the sand while the older ones can go explore the rocks and search for fish further out. For the more adventurous, you can also walk along the reserve on a designated footpath overlooking the sea, guaranteeing those social media-worthy pictures.
Lac de Saint Cassien
The Lac de Saint Cassien is a picturesque setting at the start of Pays de Fayence on the Cote d’Azur. The freshwater lake offers many activities, including renting pedal boats, paddles, kayaks as well as giant inflatable structures for kids to bounce on all day! The scenic views resemble Canadian lakes, with pine trees in the background, making for perfect picnic settings and gorgeous holiday pictures.
The lack of jellyfish means you can swim throughout the summer without fear, and the Pré Claou restaurant offers food, drinks, and snacks to keep you going throughout the day!There are many parts of the lake and its surroundings to explore, with different spots for water activities available. Various “bases nautiques” or “bases d’activités” are scattered around the lake, but not in a way that would ruin the lakes’ surroundings. One side of the lake has remained virtually untouched so rent a pédalo, cross the lake and enjoy your picnic in the most secluded spots of the lake.
Iles de Lérins
Just a few minutes by boat from Cannes, Golfe Juan or Juan les Pins, the Iles de Lérins are a group of two exceptional islands. The moment you step off the ferry you can smell the Aleppo pine trees that grow all around. The best way to explore the islands is to follow the marked trails. There are no cars on the island, so it is perfectly safe to let your children roam, although dogs must be kept on a leash.
The larger of the two islands, St. Marguerite, has lots to do, from the lagoon populated by migratory birds on the western end to the abandoned fort on the eastern end, rumored to be the place where the fabled « Man in the Iron Mask » was incarcerated. You can look around the dungeon where he was kept and visit the Maritime Museum where you can learn about the history of the islands. There are many little coves to swim around and picnic in, or, if you prefer there are several good restaurants to enjoy a lovely meal.
St Honorât is smaller and quieter, and at only 1.5k long and 400 meters wide, you can walk all way around the perimeter and stop to look at the seven 10th century chapels scattered across the island. On the southern edge there is an old 14th century fortress with a lookout tower and several nearby hotshot furnaces built during Napoleonic times to heat up cannon balls which were then shot at invaders. There is a small working monastery, open to the public, where the Cistercian monks grow grapes and make their own wines.
Whether you like swimming, hiking, skiing, or wandering around gorgeous villages and strolling through their local markets, you’re guaranteed to find something you like on the Riviera. You could easily spend the morning hiking up one of the many ‘Baous’ and enjoy the panoramic sea views before heading down to the beach for a relaxing afternoon, followed by a bite to eat and an evening stroll in old town Antibes.
Even if you somehow managed to explore every single thing there is too see on the Cote d’Azur (impossible!) you can also explore what locals call the “arrière-pays”, further back from the sea. Head to the extremity of the Var (inland) and you’ll discover the Lac de Sainte-Croix and the Gorges du Verdon (also known as the European Grand Canyon). Prepare yourself for extraordinary landscapes, turquoise waters and countless water activities, hikes and more!
Author: Gabrielle Labourier